Happy the Man — Happy the Man
(One Way OW34546, 1977/1999, CD)
Happy the Man — Crafty Hands
(One Way OW34547, 1978/1999, CD)
by Mike McLatchey, Published 1999-11-01
Readers of Exposé will be more than familiar with this seminal American quintet, as we have given them lavish coverage in these pages. Having been available only intermittently on expensive Japanese editions, it’s about time that we see these domestically. Not only do we get inexpensive American editions, but we also get the Kit Watkins remastering job (as seen previously on Death’s Crown) to add better clarity to the mix. Both of these albums display some of the best, most elaborate and sophisticated symphonic rock ever produced, played by technical geniuses. One of the many reasons is that Kit Watkins was perhaps the most impressive Minimoog player to ever record. While the studio albums don’t quite show the incredibly high levels Kit would reach on the instrument live, they give much more than a hint — witness the fade-out and finale solo on “Carousel” from their debut. It’s true that Happy the Man were influenced by the usual English pioneers, but by this time, beyond music displayed on the posthumous “Beginnings,” the band had created a signature and original statement, one that sounded like no other. The complexity of the music is perhaps the most interesting aspect — Happy the Man incorporated odd timings, counterpoint, polyphony, and polyrhythms, but did so without sacrificing accessibility. The band’s talents are readily apparent in the nimble dexterity of “Stumpy Meets Firecracker in Stencil Forest” and “Knee-Bitten Nymphs in Limbo,” but each and every title is a burst of magic in its own right. In its entirety, one of the best debuts of all time and an essential item.
Crafty Hands seems more polished, yet overall slightly less impressive, due to the more sedate second half. Tracks like the wonderful opener “Service with a Smile” and the brilliant “Steaming Pipes” build on the style they portrayed on the debut, but side 2, starting with “Wind up Doll Day Wind,” has a more refined and lyrical sound that is perhaps less exciting than the first album overall, yet still holding to compositional excellence. Any self-respecting Exposé readers will have these on pre-order, at least in spirit.
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more
Various Artists - Un Voyage en Progressif Vol. 1 - 3 – Musea is currently on a campaign to make the many artists on their label better known to the prog-buying world via these three budget-priced compilation CDs, each featuring about a dozen different... (2000) » Read more